Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana
260 S. 200 West, Salt Lake City ; 801-322-3556
This is as good as pizza gets in Salt Lake -- thin-crusted and cooked in a wood-burning oven.
Hours: M-Th, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; F-S, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Liquor: Beer & Wine
Corkage: $ 10
Reservations: For large parties only
Recommended Dishes: Pizzas: Margherita, Settebello and "bianca".
March 28, 2007
Surefire oven, ingredients and sense of proportion make the SLC pie
By Mary Brown Malouf
A few weeks ago, I reviewed the Pie and concluded that, while the Pie doesn't serve the best pizza in Salt Lake City, it is the best pizzeria.
Obviously, that led to the next question, which readers were quick to ask: So, what is the best pizza?
To answer this question, we've discussed conducting a statewide pizza survey, similar to the one we did last year with burgers, but, frankly, our senses quail at the thought. Reviewing restaurants isn't all fun and games, you know. You have to eat a lot of bad food to do this job well.
Fortunately for me, in the meantime, I ate at Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana, a new pizzeria that opened in downtown Salt Lake City in mid-January.
So, Settebello is not the best pizzeria in town. But this IS the best pizza. In fact, it's some of the best pizza I've had anywhere.
The key, of course, is the oven. This one is made in Naples, Italy, pizza's fabled home. It's fueled by oak and cherry wood (there's the wood pile along one wall of the restaurant, in case you're skeptical) and it bakes the pizza at a blistering 900 degrees so the crust cooks fast and comes out crisp, but bubbled, with a vague smokiness to the yeasty fragrance of the dough and a hint of char.
Along with the oven, Settebello owner Michael Brooks imported the best person to man the oven. Matteo Schiavone is a real pizzaiolo -- a pizza-master from Italy who has made pizza all over the world, from Europe to Bangkok to Australia. Brooks is a Bountiful native but he spent enough time in Naples to bond with good pizza and after opening the first Settebello in Henderson, Nev., he decided to give it a go on his home turf. Asked how he found a talent like Schiavone and convinced him to come to Salt Lake, Brooks just says, "I know a guy who knows a guy."
Maybe then he made Schiavone an offer he couldn't refuse but if so, I don't want to know. I'm just glad he's here.
Cooking pizza is not easy. The oven is open and Matteo Schiavone's job is to stand in front of it, making sure the coals stay white-hot all day, sliding rounds of dough in and out on his wooden paddle. This is hot work and it will only get worse as the weather warms and I'm not sure Settebello has the right ventilation to balance a 900-degree blast and a dining room full of hungry people. That's one of my few quibbles with Settebello -- the room, nicely spare and Italo-minimalist -- was slightly on the stifling side.
The service, by the way, was cheerful and informative. And there are some good wines by the glass.
But when I think of the pizza, my mouth drowns out everything else and just remembers the perfect proportion of fresh mozzarella and crushed tomatoes.
Settebello's pizzas come in one size, 12 inches in diameter; they recommend you order one apiece, although at lunch I'd be happy to split one. (But why? It's good cold, later.) They arrive at the table uncut; it's up to you to cut it into wedges, eat it with a knife and fork or tear it apart ravenously with your bare hands. If you do wedge it, notice that when you pick it up, the edges stay put while the center sags, requiring the classic New York pizza rolled fold to keep toppings from sliding off. Perfect.
There's really nothing but pizza on the menu except a short list of appetizers and salads. The insalata ($4.99) of mixed greens in vinaigrette with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano and toasted pine nuts was a perfect prelude to pizza. There is also an insalata grande, a heartier salad ($7.99), with artichoke hearts, roasted mushrooms and olives and if for some crazy reason you didn't want pizza, you could go with the misto plate ($10.99), basically antipasto of meat, cheese and vegetables with focaccia bread.
However, I recommend the pizza.
Of the two basics, marinara and Margherita, we tried the latter ($8.99), spread with uncooked crushed tomatoes, high-moisture buffalo mozzarella, shredded fresh basil, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil. The genius is the light hand with the toppings. So many American pizzerias seem to be under the impression that the heavier the toppings, the better the pizza. Not so. Proportion is what pizza is all about and several tender melted puddles of milky mozzarella are infinitely more delicious than a solid sheet of greasy processed cheese.
Not that extra toppings don't have their place. At the other end of the Settebello spectrum is their eponymous pie, the most expensive item at $12.99. It carries -- besides the Margherita basics -- thin shavings of pancetta, toasted pine nuts and roasted baby mushrooms, and fragrant rounds of fantastic finocchiona, fennel-spiced sausage made in Seattle by Salumi, a small but deservedly world-famous maker of cured meats and sausage.
But my personal favorite pie is the "bianca" ($11.99), which skips tomatoes, layers pink prosciutto crudo with the two essential cheeses and comes with naked arugula showered over the top.
Settebello claims to make its pizzas according to the strict regulations of the Verace Pizza Napoletana, which, in true European Union style, has set out specifications for everything from the correct oven temperature to the type of flour used. I only say "claims" because I can't personally verify that the flour is 00, extra fine, or that the tomatoes are San Marzano. I do know, or the menu says, that the other fennel sausage used is made in Bountiful by Marberger Meats. I doubt the EU has authorized Utah sausage but frankly, I don't care. Whatever methods, whatever ingredients Settebello uses, they should stick with them.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.